Tram schemes hitting the buffers

The British Government appears biased against modern tram schemes, says a report from MPs.

Progress on implementing tram and light rail systems is "slow and fitful", according to the report from the All Party Parliamentary Light Rail Group.

Despite improvements of late, the Department for Transport (DfT) still lacks an overall light-rail strategy, the report says, adding that the DfT does not treat light rail proposals in the same way as other modes and the department has a tendency to "micro-manage from the centre".

The report concludes that to bring back trams to more city streets there needs to be a clearer lead from Government, less bias against trams in the appraisal processes, and for ways to be found of further cutting the costs of new schemes.

MP Paul Rowen, who chaired the group's inquiry into the future of light rail, said: "Where the UK has invested in modern tram systems we have seen motorists switching to the tram and impressive growth in passenger numbers. However, overall, the progress on implementing modern trams has been slow and fitful - certainly when compared with our near-neighbours in Europe, where entire systems are being built in the time it takes us to get through the mountains of paperwork that characterise the approach in the UK."

Rowen went on: "We wanted to see how we could put the future of modern trams in the UK onto a sounder footing. Our report suggests that leadership and co-ordination is key in order to arrive at a framework for the development and implementation of light rail schemes that is cheaper, quicker and more appropriate."

Transport Minister Sadiq Khan said: "I welcome the report produced by the All Party Parliamentary Light Rail Group and I will now carefully consider the conclusions.

"The Government supports light rail schemes where they are the best solution for the local circumstances once all other options have been considered.

"For instance, we agreed to provide £244 million for three extensions to Manchester Metrolink and recently announced over £500 million to revitalise the Tyne and Wear Metro system. We support tram schemes in the right places, however, sometimes bus projects might offer a more cost effective solution."

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